Q: Have you made any liturgical resolutions for the new year?
A: Yes! Here are some of my liturgical resolutions for the year of Our Lord 2016, and you are welcome to make them your own, if you like.
• To appreciate more deeply, during the Jubilee of Mercy, how the mercy of God is celebrated in the prayers, Scripture readings and songs of the sacred liturgy.
All the sacramental celebrations of the church proclaim the merciful love of God and actually bestow it on us. They are God’s visible word of mercy to us in Jesus Christ. The Jubilee of Mercy is a special time to confess our sins in the rite of reconciliation and to receive God’s infinite mercy and power for good in our lives.
• To observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25) by learning more about the worship of non-Catholic Christians, especially Lutherans as they and we prepare to observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. This year’s theme is “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord,” and the worship of all believers in Christ is a powerful proclamation of God’s saving deeds in the past and present.
• To listen more attentively to the celebrant’s prayers at the Eucharist. The Mass prayers contained in the Roman Missal can sound like a super-sized mouthful of words, but I have come to believe they have a richness and beauty not found in the Sacramentary’s translations that they superseded.
But these prayers require greater attention in speaking or hearing them if we are to pray them with our minds and hearts. I say “if we are to pray them,” because the celebrant says “Let us pray” before speaking these prayers in the name of all.
• To deepen my understanding of some aspects of liturgical history, theology and pastoral practice.
When I was a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, we studied the liturgy under these three aspects. There are always new books and articles appearing on the history, meaning and
celebration of the liturgy: on how we have done it, why we do it, and how to do it better. Hopefully, I will be able to explore some of these works as part of my ongoing formation through the liturgy, which remains my foremost and best teacher in the ways of spirituality.
• To offer a compliment to a minister of hospitality, choir member, cantor, reader, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, celebrant or homilist who helps me to meet Jesus Christ in the liturgy.
To encourage someone who is qualified to serve in a liturgical ministry. (Maybe I should be encouraging you to serve as a liturgical minister.)
To pray this prayer for fellow ministers within the liturgical celebration:
“Blessed are you, Lord God, by your angels and saints in the throne room of heaven and by your holy people gathered as the Church on earth.
“I join with worshipers of all times and places to praise your glory revealed in Christ Jesus and to give thanks for your saving deeds.
“Send your Holy Spirit, source of all our prayer, to all who serve your people at the liturgy. Help us worship you in spirit and in truth. Guide the thoughts of our hearts, the words of our mouths, and the work of our hands, so that our service may give you glory.
“All honor and praise to you, loving Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and brother, in the power of the Holy Spirit, both now and for every. Amen.
• To reflect on these words from Common Preface IV in the Roman Missal: “…although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation, through Christ our Lord.”
The liturgy is God’s work before it is ours, but it is a divine-human work that lets us share in God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. God gives us the liturgy so that we can join God in creating a wonderful work that, like the Scriptures, is both divine and human: the words and songs and sacraments that create our lives anew, in Christ. This is God’s generous gift to us every new day of this new year.
Benedictine Father Michael Kwatera, a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, serves as the abbey’s director of liturgy. Please send your questions on liturgy to him at email@example.com or at St. John’s Abbey, P.O. Box 2015, Collegeville, MN 56321-2015.